Making Thinking Visible Chapter 4

I love getting into the nitty gritty or meat of a book.  Now I can explore new routines to use to prompt further thinking and use for assessment!  In chapter 4, you are introduced to 7 new routines.  At our last school, we were already using See, Think, Wonder in response to a visual in math and science as a tool to understand where students are in their understanding or to prompt discussion.  Also, Think, Puzzle, Explore just sounds like an alternative to a KWHL chart.  Zoom In is similar to See, Think, Wonder but focuses on a small piece of an image, then yielding to a larger view.  I think this would be handy as a lesson to show students the value of close reading and reviewing material.  It also gives a different perspective to how you see something.  Chalk Talk is similar to how we opened up new units in our International Baccalaureate program: Ideas?  Connections?  Questions?  These were all valid tools, yet I didn’t feel like it was anything truly new from what I’ve been practicing.

So let’s get to the 3 which I found the most interesting:

3-2-1 Bridge

Here is a quick method to stimulate background knowledge, promote thought, then assess connections/growth.  The idea is that a student provides 3 words, 2 questions, and 1 metaphor/simile in response to a topic, then repeats the same activity after learning more about the concept.  If time, I might would ask students to write a brief explanation and draw a diagram to show their thinking.  At a minimum, I would ask for because to be added to each of the 3 words to deepen the activity and provide a better understanding of what each student is thinking.  Otherwise, you’re just playing word association – I can do this without really knowing what I’m saying.  Because is such a powerful word in education.  I’m always about students writing down their thoughts to practice explaining ideas.  If you’ve ever taught, then you know a student saying the sky is blue because of the angle of the light coming through the atmosphere sounds like he/she has some understanding.  However, when you ask for an explanation you might get something quirky such as, “because the aliens from other planets are shooting rays of light from different places, which planet is shooting rays decides which shades of blue you see or if it’s red,” which means Suzy actually doesn’t understand at all and has access to alien movies at home.  Ah, small moments such as these bring joy to teaching, almost as well as that aha moment by little Suzy.  I’d like to play with this routine several times to see what types of assessment I can gain.

Compass Points

In second grade, we teach interpreting information on a map including orientation and legends.  How fun to tie in the compass points with a method of sharing our ideas.  In this routine, E = Excitement/advantages W = worries/concerns/problems (which leads to action needed), N = needs, and S = stance/opinion.  I see this as a different structure for a concept wheel.  I can imagine using this when researching landforms, considering how people settle according to their environment or considering the concept of saving money.  I think I will tie in the Carousel Kagan structure with this routine for a unit allowing for movement with activation, the revisit the same activity for assessment.

The Explanation Game

This routine allows for a student to look closely at one piece of a larger concept and consider its function or role.  The steps are Name it, Explain it, Give reasons, and give alternate reasons/possibilities.  I like that it is asking for reasons, then asks a student to delve more deeply into possible alternatives.  I will need to really work on modeling this to promote thought beyond the superficial, but it allows for a natural differentiation with infinite growth.  This is an excellent match with open ended projects in science and social studies.  In a way, I think Number Talks provide this type of thinking in math naturally.  Students are describing their observations/steps, explaining them, then discussing alternative perspectives.  I’d like to try this with the program SeeSaw, allowing students to record their thoughts individually or in pairs, then discuss as a class.

Overall, I’m always looking for engaging ways to get my students thinking about their learning and better understand what they know.  I’m excited to implement these ideas in my next job.  I can’t wait to be back into the classroom to try these ideas.

A River Ran Wild

Currently I am serving as a long term substitute in a 3rd grade classroom at an International Baccalaureate school.  If you are not familiar with IB schools, it’s basically an integrated, inquiry approach to learning which looks at global/environmental relationships, changes, and interactive impact. Last week, we began a new unit “Sharing Our Planet” where the focus will rely on inquiry into changing adaptations of organisms to survive and thrive, how human processes impact nature and environment, and how the need for resources influences one’s actions.  The initial idea was to introduce the 3 lines of inquiry (previously mentioned) with pictures and allow for whole class discussion, followed with individual questions to begin the unit, but I thought of a book I used during student teaching and knew I had to use it again.

A River Ran Wild:An Environmental History is a beautiful story with complex, rich illustrations which tie into how a river in the northeast changed over time as humans thirst for greater industry grew without thought to the impact they were making.  It’s told in a beautiful narrative format, sharing the true story of the Nashua River.  The reader can listen/read the story of the words, yet also see the story unfold with the pictures, specifically the framework of pictures surrounding the text, similar to Jan Brett.  When I saw the opening lesson planned during a team meeting, I immediately envisioned the environmental focus of this book – a perfect avenue to provide a concrete frame of reference for a diverse group of children.  I made foldables with 3 tabs, each a separate line of inquiry.  Every once in awhile, I stopped reading the book to let the students interact with the story and each other, then journal in their foldable.  To discuss adaptations, I printed color copies of two of the animals mentioned in the story for one of the lines of inquiry.  The activity was a success with the students which means real connections were made.  I had shared my idea with my colleagues via email.  It was exciting when 2 teachers used the book.  I love the thrill of collaboration.  (I have one classmate from Texas State where we would just volley – going back and forth with ideas.  Love it.)

As a bonus, we will read The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest later in the unit.  Same author!  Isn’t that fantastic?!  I’d love to tie this into an author study, but my assignment ends this coming week and the students are currently researching to publish an animal expository book – hands down, their favorite activity of the past 3 months.  We should have time for discussion to compare the styles and format of both books.  It’s my hope one of my students will discover the coincidence rather than I provide the information so a student can have a moment to shine and an “impromptu discussion”  begins which will miraculously occur when there’s a window of time for the discussion.

I love when an idea works in the classroom – the satisfaction when students experience the joy of learning.

Empirical, Scientific, Supportive and Authentic

There’s simply too much I learned at the NSTA conference to state within 1 post, but I can give the highlights. From Betsy Rupp Fulwiler, I gained insight into training students to keep true scientific records, recording only what has been observed using concise terminology, then backing conclusions with supportive evidence. A very positive tone is used without lowering expectations. Standards are raised, increasing writing skills even as conventions are not emphasized. Students learn organization, scientific skills, science concepts, analytic skills, and communication skills. It was fascinating. Her book is Writing in Science in Action.  There are ideas which can easily be implemented even if the entire program is not utilized.  I have a friend in Connecticutt who immediately began using strategies from this program.  She plans to keep me updated on the results – I’m looking forward to this.  The conference itself was amazing.  It’s interesting how quickly connections are made with shared enthusiasm.  If I asked sincere questions about a teacher’s classroom, I could usually sit while words spilled from the other, so eager to share.

Okay, what else was learned?  Using current events to spark interest in topics.  Most of the ideas presented can be used in any subject: digital storytelling, news events, applying higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, using various technological applications/websites.  I soaked it in.  Because Texas State “teaches current best practices” (It’s kind of funny when certain phrases are heard repeatedly between classes), I was able to contribute to conversations.  Go Bobcats!

It was worth the extra hours at home preparing, then catching up with daily responsibilities.  Having a room to myself at night in a hotel – Bonus!

NSTA National Conference, San Antonio

San Antonio or Bust

Since this conference will not occur until April, I shouldn’t write anything yet.  However, I can’t help myself.  My family hears more than they desire about education, FB friends really aren’t interested in future conferences, and my husband is traveling.  Therefore, I will enter here with the most enthusiasm sans all cap letters or exclamation points that I have registered, not just for the NSTA National Conference being held in San Antonio, BUT (okay a few caps) for a Professional Development Institute.  This means I leave a day early, as projects are looming for the semester, for an extra day to participate in a professional series “The Literacy and Inquiry Connection: Instruction that Scaffolds and and Enhances Scientific Thinking and Understanding.”  The title alone makes me feel like a child at eye level with the pumpkin pie for Christmas dinner, a trace of cinnamon – traipsing, teasing; yet it’s only 8 in the morning.  I am even more excited about this conference than I was the fall math conference (NCTM regional Dallas).  I’ve had April’s conference bookmarked for an entire year.  Now one can understand why I had to write about an experience I’ve not yet fulfilled.  Math conference, Kagan workshop, Science and Literacy – now I require a full literacy workshop to round out my early training.  I’ve attended a couple of TAIR conferences, with another arriving in February, but I’m wishing for the Stephanie Harvey of workshops.  She holds a summer session every year in  Colorado.  It’s in my future.  I did attend Harvey Daniel’s workshop at the TAIR conference at Baylor University.  He’s pretty amazing as well – I have his collaborative book with Stephanie Harvey.  It’s not been used so that really doesn’t say anything.  Since we went to Disney for Christmas, we won’t travel for Spring Break.  I’ll use this time to work ahead of schedule (hopefully) in order to not lose sanity from work hours lost due to this conference.  Science, Literacy, Teacher Lingo, and a hotel room to myself (this factor is equivalent to all others as a mom of four) = Visions of sugarplums dance in my head.

Egg to Chick Project

What do you call a city of 20 million eggs?  New Yolk City

We are on Day 13 of our annual home “egg to chick” project.  It’s so easy to do, plus your local 4H chapter will help you find proper homes for the chicks; we keep ours. Eggs are turned 2-3 times daily.  The penciled “o” on the single egg picture marks the egg to ensure all eggs are turned each time.  One side has an x while the opposite side has an o.  I hope to incorporate this activity every year in my class.  We buy a dozen fertilized eggs online for approximately $4.  In the past, we borrowed an incubator from our county agricultural extension center.  This year we bit the bullet and purchased one.  It coordinates well with many science concepts and processes.  It’s  an exciting project for the children and teacher too!

A Side Note

This calls to mind something I read in Teach Like a Champion, a book I highly recommend.  At the beginning of chapter 2, Lemov suggests teachers need to teach with a “Begin with the End” in mind, the concept being to tailor lesson plans to objectives rather than vice versa.  I agree with this, however feel there are special lesson plans that are meaty, flexible, or worthy enough to incorporate as long as one primarily teaches according to objectives first.  As an example, the egg to chick project naturally coordinates with many elementary science concepts (living or nonliving, classification, adaptation, basic needs, environmental factors) or the project could simply incorporate scientific investigation objectives to encourage the wonder of life/learning.  Wanting to use an exceptional lesson plan doesn’t have to mean one is trying to push the square peg into the round hole when handled appropriately.  Always the safety and needs of the animals are met; we have local ranches willing to take the chicks where they live their lives happily as free range chickens.

Here are some helpful links:

Lancaster County 4H chick project

Sarasota County 4H chick project

States of Matter Lesson Plan

How is ice like music?  If you don’t C sharp, you will B flat.

Just a Note:  This post is primarily for personal reference.  However, you should really check the link for A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Water if you are not familiar with this book.  It’s a science trade book written by Walter Wick, the photographer for the I Spy series.  The photographs are truly extraordinary.  I was introduced to the book at a literacy workshop which uses it as one of their mentor texts.  Subjects such as surface tension, evaporation, condensation, and states of matter are written in short paragraphs.  I dare you not to buy it once you discover this gem.

5-E lesson plan model : Solid, Liquid, and Gas

TEKS:  3.5 B

Objectives:  The students will: be able to describe and classify 3 states of matter, explaining the physical property of shape of each

Materials:  A Drop of Water by Walter Wick

For each group: 1 balloon full of frozen water labeled #1, 2 balloons – 1 with some water, labeled #2– the other full, labeled #3, 1 balloon full of air labeled #4

Science notebooks, Anchor charts: solid, liquid, gas; Venn Diagram






5-E Phases



What the teacher will do



Eliciting questions


Formative Assessment



How will you know students have learned?


Student responses



Show pictures in A Drop of Waterbut don’t read 

Assess, and teach following vocabulary if  necessary: matter, property, states of matter, solid, liquid

What do you notice about the water?Do we have anything in common with water? Students will make observations of pictures.




(teacher doesn’t give answers)



Observe and listen.Possibly ask open ended questions In small groups, children will record observations of their balloons in their science journal using their senses.The students will construct a simple table (TEKS 3.2 B) The children should collaborate with one another. 

There are no wrong answers at this point.



Lead children to explain what they did. Teacher and children discuss activity. 









Read pp. 21-23 A Drop of Water

vocabulary: gas, water vapor, evaporation

Concept: solid has a definite shape, liquid goes to the bottom and takes the shape of the container where it is, gas spreads out to take the shape of its container completely

Students will analyze and communicate conclusions as a class. (TEKS 3.2 C,D) 










Elaborate:_20__minutes Share solid, liquid, gas poem on Anchor charts.  


Children put correct pictures onto Anchor charts.


Provide students with tri-Venn diagram to put into science notebook. Compare/Contrast 3 states of matter.  Provide examples of each Fill out Venn Diagram.